Volume 3: Staff Retention

RoyOnce upon a time, the corrugated industry gave new workers tons of time to adjust to a new job. The industry used to be more patient with its staff as they learned their way around a new company and culture. Getting staff to quickly and consistently perform at 100% is crucial; however, the industry has gone from cultivating long term employees and patiently letting them get up to speed, to a culture of a culture of high turnover and a week’s grace – if you’re lucky.

High turnover is going to affect your bottom line and your investors’ pockets, but I’m telling you, there is something you can do about it.

There’s a story often told in management classes for college freshmen:

Some surprising results were found during a series of experiments between 1924 and 1932 at Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory outside of Chicago. When the lighting in the factory was improved, production increased. This was done again and again and production continued to increase as the room got brighter. But, here’s the twist: when the testers dimmed the lights considerably, production increased again!

What?

It was realized that the increase in productivity had nothing to do with the changes in lighting, but rather the increased productivity was caused by the attention focused on the workers during the experiment. This theory is called the Hawthorne Effect.

But why should you care?

Because, having to babysit your employees to ensure that they are keeping up maximum productivity is a waste of time and can create tension between workers and management.

Instead, many top companies take a different route when trying to increase productivity. These organizations implement communication and remuneration strategies that go beyond simple monetary rewards for work completed. These top companies know that when the staff feel valued, they are more productive and stay with the company longer. Here are some ways that these top companies keep their staff feeling valued and working at high production levels:

Benefits that go beyond monetary ones:

  • Insurance
  • Retirement plans

Did you know: Boeing employees get a break between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Alternative monetary benefits:

  • Stock options
  • Annual raises
  • Christmas bonuses

Small job perks:

  • Free food
  • Uniforms cleaned

Did you know: Google offers free haircuts, free food, gym sessions, ping pong, a bowling alley, laundry facilities and dry cleaning for its staff on site!

Contests:

  • Reward incentives to meet targets

Performance evaluations / annual chats with employees:

  • Why they have stayed
  • What can you do to keep retain them

Employee development:

  • Training for new skills on the job
  • Reimbursement for tuition

Did you know: Google offers up to 20% of staff time to work on their own projects.

Promote from within:

  • Looking at your top employees as potential management candidates before venturing outside the company

Did you know: Oshkosh offers many training programs so that they can promote employees quickly.

Communication between different staff levels:

  • Regular staff meetings for Q&A sessions between management and staff
  • Open Door Policy

To me, communication is the most important of these retention tactics. In the first two Volumes in this “Talent Realities” series, I’ve instructed you to spend your time discovering your company’s culture and values. This prior self-reflection will be invaluable in the process of communicating with your workers.

The main difference between management and lower level workers is that management understands that their outcomes make a huge difference to the company goals and culture. Taking this understanding one more step and engaging your employees with the business goals is vital. Top employees understand what their company stands for, and why you are asking so much of them. Open and honest communication is generally the first step toward this end.

This may mean overcoming diversity and generational differences. Sitting down with them is a good first step to find out what matters to your employees, and what they need.

Then empower all of your employees to do their best without having to rely on the Hawthorne effect.

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